Friday, July 1, 2011

ALA 2011 Wrap-Up

Last weekend's sojourn in the Big Easy taught me some valuable lessons regarding professional development and networking among librarians. I generally consider myself to be pretty shy, and when it comes to putting myself out there, and networking with new colleagues, I freeze up. Sure, I interact with many of these folks on Twitter (which has proven to be an amazing place to commiserate with colleagues on all things Library/Publishing/whatever), but talking to them in person? Uh uh. However, I've learned that if you hang out too long on the sidelines, you're not getting the most out of your conference experience. And, you're certainly not growing professionally. So, here's what I did this weekend, to overcome my shyness. If it worked for me, it can totally work for you, too!

1. Don't be afraid to say hi.

Don't be afraid to say hello to fellow librarians, publishers, authors and, well, basically anyone at the ALA conference. Seriously. Now, you might be thinking, "Gosh, I don't want to look like a dork, or appear all fangirl/boy around these people." Well, don't. When I arrived in NOLA, the first event on my agenda was a party thrown by Little, Brown Young Readers, celebrating the upcoming release of Laini Taylor's DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE. These types of events are consummate opportunities to make new friends, share your appreciation about an author's work, and just generally have a good time. At Kirby, Kiesha, and Joanna's urging, I mustered up the courage to go up to librarians/bloggers, Kelly Jensen , Angie Manfredi, and Abby Johnson, and personally introduce myself. I had been following their blogs and Twitter feeds for a while, applying many of their suggested library practices and book recommendations in my own work. Imagine my relief when they all turned out to be super-friendly (I mean, why wouldn't they be?). I'd like to think they also appreciated knowing the positive impacts of their blogging/tweeting. Throughout the weekend, I also introduced myself to people whose names I heard via the YALSA grapevine, and whose work (whether it was through committees or articles written in VOYA, SLJ, etc.) I admired. You never know if you'll be serving on a committee with any of these folks (chances are, you will), so it's always good to make friends (because making friends is fun!).
At the LBYR party, as well as other receptions I attended this weekend, I made a point of going up to various authors (because chatting with an author in the crowded, noisy exhibits hall can be a flustering experience) to relate personal anecdotes ("My teens/children loved your book, because...") and share my admiration of their work. I kept it all brief, but to the point. Simon & Schuster's dinner for debut authors was a lovely opportunity to network with a writer from California--we are now in contact via Twitter, and it's my hope that she'll come speak at my library in the near future.

2. Check entitled attitudes at the door.

Often some of us attend ALA assuming we're going to pick up a ton of free books, swag, whatever. Some of us do not realize that there are limited quantities of these items available, and that publishers have spent exorbitant amounts of $$ producing and carting these items to the conference. That being said, it's a bit uncouth to go into a booth and start grabbing ARCS willy-nilly (especially multiple quantities) with little regard for your fellow librarians/bloggers, as well as the publishers themselves. Here are some tips that will hopefully keep you in the good graces of the exhibitors as well as fellow conference goers:
  • Unless there are piles and piles of ARCs (grab only 1, please!), do not assume the display ARCs are yours for the taking, even if there are 2-3 copies. If you are interested in a particular title, politely ask the publisher/rep if there are extra copies. Usually, they will take your business card (have plenty handy, you'll need them) and promise to send one to you later. In my experience, most publishers (especially LBYR) have been really great about this.
  • If there are lines for book signings, giveaways, whatever, do not, under any circumstances, CUT IN LINE. The librarians/bloggers will practically flay you (and you'll probably deserve it). Be polite.
  • For goodness sakes, DON'T STEAL! At Penguin, three boxes of Ally Condie's CROSSED disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Seriously. It is no wonder that Penguin was extremely strict about releasing their ARCs at given times during the conference--with this type of behavior, who could blame them? At Random House, the display ARC of David Levithan's EVERY YOU EVERY ME disappeared before the designated giveaway time--incredibly frustrating for anyone who wanted to peruse RH's only copy of the book. The poor RH rep apologized to me profusely, but all I could think was, bad karma on the person who did that. If this keeps happening, I swear, publishers will put the kibosh on bringing free stuff to ALA. Don't ruin it for the rest of us, yo'!

3. Don't forget to say THANK YOU!

Don't forget to thank the publishers, authors, and all the people who make your ALA conference worthwhile--a verbal thank you during/after the event, or even a nice email is great. Whenever I am invited to receptions/events, I always remember to send a handwritten thank you note (because I'm a ridiculous stationery addict) to the organizer. An incredible amount of work goes into planning these kinds of events, and such a little thing like a thank you note goes a long way.

4. Don't hoard - share your knowledge!

I really don't think of myself as a mentor, but this weekend, my friend Joanna kept telling me how impressed she was with my ability to "fearlessly" approach people and talk to them. Um, Joanna is pretty fearless herself, so her comment meant quite a lot to me. But, seriously, I wasn't always like this. I had great friends that I met through Quick Picks, who showed me the ropes and introduced me to several wonderful people, for which I am beyond grateful. Now I feel like it's my turn. At my alumni reception, I met a woman who wanted to know how she could get more involved with committee work--I shared my experiences with her, and gave her some suggestions for how she could increase her involvement and visibility in associations like YALSA and ALSC. Remember, we were all newbies once upon a time.

That's all I have for now, but stay tuned for an ALA '11 ARC haul post from me, as well as a few reviews.


Allison said...

This is such an inspiring post! It makes me look forward to next year's ALA all the more, and hope I can be fearless about making connections just as you did. Way to go, and thanks for sharing with the rest of us!

GreenBeanTeenQueen said...

Great points! I love ALA because you can go up to everyone and start talking-it's a wonderful place to network!

I do disagree with the asking what people are in line for though. I know it's annoying to be asked that over and over and over (trust me, I've been asked when in line too!) but it is helpful because often the reps are busy and they're lining up multiple lines for signings and giveaways and you want to make sure you're standing in the correct line and actually at the end of it (so you don't cut in line).

I'm glad you had a great time!!

Lalitha said...

@GreenBean Teen Queen Thanks! You're right about the line issue--I was only half serious. When I was in line for Lola, we were literally getting questions every few seconds, so it got to be a little intense. ;)

I'm sorry I didn't get to say hello to you--we kind of passed each other, but I wanted to say I love your blog and twitter, too!

GreenBeanTeenQueen said...

Aww..thanks! I know we passed by each other many times. I felt like I didn't get to see half the people I wanted to-this ALA was so busy, and they'll only get worse with committee work. But I still love it!:)